Motivating yourself to gain new business is often easy; you need the money…! From a psychological perspective this is known as “extrinsic motivation”. It is motivation that arises from something someone else will do. You become motivated because your customer will pay you.
However, “intrinsic motivation” – the motivation that comes from within ourselves – is usually much more powerful and long-lasting. People who really enjoy their work don’t care how much they are paid – they are not motivated by the money. Indeed, millions of people in caring professions, for example, are paid low wages because they are motivated mainly by the care they provide for others. Similarly, there are probably millions of poets around the world, as another example, who have written brilliant poetry that has yet to see the light of day. They are motivated by the positive feelings they produce from writing good poetry – getting it published and having someone pay them for their work is not a motivation for them. The intrinsic motivation for the things we enjoy often trumps the extrinsic motivation of some act performed by others towards us.
In business, though, there is always the ever-present extrinsic motivation of being paid. Whenever someone in business is trying to win a client or a salesperson is attempting to get someone to buy, the extrinsic motivation of receiving the money is always there.
Sometimes, though, people work in business where the extrinsic motivation for receiving money is stronger than the intrinsic motivation of doing the work. Not everyone does work they enjoy so much they do not care whether they get paid. And that can lead to a problem.
When you win new business and you are mainly motivated by receiving the signed contract and the associated payment you are not as keen as you might be on actually fulfilling the work required. You are less motivated by the work than you are by the money.
This leads to lower quality work, often leading to a one-off contract because the client goes off to search for someone better. That means the business owner then has to go out and find a new client to bring in more money because they have lost the long-term benefit of a happy client. This feeds a cycle whereby the only motivation is money, enhancing the impact of the extrinsic motivation and making people feel even less motivated by their personal desires to do the work.
Online you can see this happening a great deal. People produce a second-rate e-book, for instance, because they are dazzled by the potential of making lots of money online relatively easily – rather than motivated by writing a quality book. Their low quality book does not sell well, so they produce another low quality book to make more money and so on. Eventually they do make some money having produced dozens of low quality books that sell in low numbers. These arise because the author is motivated by the money and not by the writing.
Recent research shows that this effect can happen even in people where you might think it would not – multimillionaire athletes. Researchers at the University of Missouri found that athletic performance fell in the year after a new contract was signed. It appears that the athletes upped their game in the months before the potential new contract, but after it was signed their performance level fell. This indicates that even people you might think more motivated by the intrinsic motivation of doing a great job on the sports field actually were affected by the extrinsic motivation of money.
It implies that we all need to take care of what motivates us in business. If we focus too much on the money we can end up doing a poor job for our clients. Focusing on what you enjoy doing could be more important in the long run as it will lead to higher quality work and therefore longer term clients.
Don’t give up on the work once the contract is signed…!
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+